Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variation in living organisms, viewed within a given habitat, ecosystem or in the world as a whole. The concept is usually applied to the species diversity, although the notion of genetic biodiversity is applied to the variation in genes within an individual species. While most people think of rainforests as loci of great biodiversity, biomes such as oceans and grasslands are the likely repositories for even greater variation. Retention of diverse biota is important, since intact ecosystems are thought to be essential for provision of ecosystem services to humans, including maintenance of a diverse foodbank, pollination, clean water, flood control, pest control, waste decomposition, biomass energy resources and climate stability. Biodiversity is presently critical since we live in the era of the Mass Holocene Extinction, a period of species loss caused by man, and unrivaled in rate of species loss. Although the number of total species numbers in the tens of millions, most have not yet even been described. The extinction of a species is almost always related to destruction of habitat or man-made pollution.

  • Coral reefs (collection) Featured Article Coral reefs (collection) Coral reefs (collection)

    Coral reefs are one of the most diverse, complex, aesthetically appealing and threatened ecosystems on earth. This collection will include information on a wide range of topics... More »

  • Crustacea Featured Article Crustacea Crustacea

    Crustaceans are invertebrates belonging to the phylum Arthropoda and include such familiar groups as barnacles, crabs, crayfish, lobster, water fleas and pill bugs. Crustaceans... More »

  • Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Featured Article Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Ecoregions of Utah (EPA)

    The Ecoregions of Utah comprise a diverse set of plant communities and geomorphic provinces. Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type,... More »

  • Habitat fragmentation Featured Article Habitat fragmentation Habitat fragmentation

    Habitat fragmentation involves alteration of habitat resulting in spatial separation of habitat units from a previous state of greater... More »

  • Virus Featured Article Virus Virus

    A virus is a microscopic organism that can replicate only inside the cells of a host organism. Most viruses are so tiny they are only observable with at least a conventional... More »

  • South China Sea Featured Article South China Sea South China Sea

      The South China Sea is a critical world trade route and a potential source of... More »

  • Devonian Featured Article Devonian Devonian

    The Devonian period is a geologic time interval within the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, aapproximately 417 million years before present (BP), to... More »

  • Spinner dolphin Featured Article Spinner dolphin Spinner dolphin

    The Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), a marine mammal in the family of oceanic dolphins,  gets its name from the spinning behavior it shows when it leaps out of... More »

  • Permian Featured Article Permian Permian

    The Permian period lasted from 290 to 248 million years ago and was the last period of the Paleozoic Era. The distinction between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic is made at the... More »

Recently Updated
Highveld grasslands Last Updated on 2015-07-04 13:04:22 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection Highveld grasslands ecoregion covers a large portion of west-central South Africa. Grasslands all over the world have experienced dramatic habitat destruction as a result of anthropogenic changes. The Highveld grasslands are no exception, with agriculture severely fragmenting this once-expansive region. This ecoregion now provides the last remaining stronghold of a number of grassland species that have suffered major reductions in abundance in the grassland biome, and which are consequently threatened with extinction (e.g. the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea). There is a relatively biodiverse vertebrate fauna, with 608 taxa recorded. This ecoregion is part of the Montane Grasslands and Shrublands biome, within the Afrotropics Realm. The ecoregion draws its name from the high interior plateau known as... More »
Nama Karoo Last Updated on 2015-07-02 23:56:32 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Nama Karoo is a vast, open, arid ecoregion in southern Africa dominated by low-shrub vegetation, punctuated by rugged relief. Although not remarkably rich in species or endemism, the flora and fauna of the region are impressively adapted to its climatic extremes. The Nama Karoo ecoregion is part of the Deserts and Xeric Shrublands biome, within the Afrotropics Realm. The major threats to biodiversity are posed by pastoralism, introduction of alien species of plants, mining and conversion of native habitat to agriculture, all exacerbated by the fact that very little - less than one percent - of the ecoregion is conserved. Most of the Nama Karoo occurs on the central plateau of the Cape Province in South Africa, although it extends over the Orange River into Namibia in the northwest. The Great... More »
East African montane moorlands Last Updated on 2015-07-02 10:29:19 The East African montane moorlands is a relatively small alpine ecoregion in eastern Africa. The habitat is virtually treeless since it occupies a zone above the treeline. This ecoregion, classified as an element of the montane grasslands and scrublands biome, has a land area measuring only about 1300 square miles. The ecoregion, lying at the upper zones of ancient volcanoes, exhibits low species richness of higher level faunal organisms, but manifests moderate plant and animal endemism, including support of certain extremophiles. There is particularly high endemism among amphibians and small mammals of the ecoregion. Many of the plant species that occur in the ecoregion have adapted interesting morphological features to allow survival in the extreme cold here. The upper elevations of the ecoregion have persistent glacial cover. Although some of the ecoregion (e.g. Mount Kilamanjaro)... More »
Madagascar succulent woodlands Last Updated on 2015-07-01 18:43:46 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Madagascar succulent woodlands ecoregion comprises a mosaic of succulent xeric adapted plants and deciduous forests that represent critical habitats for many species of animals and plants restricted to the western region of Madagascar. Some of the remarkable fauna and flora found in this ecoregion include the Giant jumping rat (Hypogeomys antimena), the Flat-tailed tortoise (Pyxis planicauda), two species of baobabs and several species of primates. The Madagascar succulent woodlands is classified within the Desert and Xeric Shrublands Biome, and is part of the Afrotropics Realm. These succulent woodlands are situated in southwestern Madagascar extending northward to the central western part of the island. Its southern limit is the start of the Madagascar spiny thicket and northern limit the lower... More »
Madagascar spiny thickets Last Updated on 2015-06-25 20:16:56 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection The Madagascar spiny thickets or spiny desert of southern Madagascar, also referred to as deciduous thicket, is a globally distinctive ecoregion. This ecoregion is part of the Deserts and Xeric Shrublands biome, within the Afrotropics Realm. While the island of Madagascar is notable for exceptional levels of endemic plants and animals, the spiny thicket is particularly distinctive with 95 percent of the plant species endemic to the ecoregion. Members of the endemic Didiereaceae family present dominate the thicket, which have similar xeric adaptations to New World cacti, such as small leaves and spines, but with the Madagascar spiny thickets displaying more woody rather than succulent characteristics. There are a total of 288 recorded vertebrate taxa in the Madagascar spiny thickets, including several endemic... More »